Having a wish list in your project is a common phenomenon. Everybody wants more good things in the project with fewer resources and in a short span of time.
There is no clear cut difference between wish list and necessary changes. Generally wish list can be characterized as something which does not look harmful at the start and the project manager or his/her team thinks that they can accommodate the request without suffering any delay. On the other hand, Change requests means something that will surely affect your project. When you are working on projects where funds are not coming from your own organization’s pocket, then change request can be a very good source of income.
For any project, it’s up to the project manager that how he/she conceives the wish list. In many organizations (with very few exceptions) saying a “NO” to a stakeholder wish is like putting up your resignation. So people are always in an “Accepting Mode” i.e. any wish that comes from a stakeholder is welcome or in Urdu “sir-e-tasleem kham”.
What people don’t realize is that this attitude is adversely affecting your project. Many a time this attitude results when the project manager is working simultaneously on projects and operations (like handling a portion or complete human resource department) and he/she is unable to distinguish the meaning and consequences of wish list in these two different work scenarios.
In projects (as you have scope, cost, resource, quality and time constraints) wish lists tend to have a long term impact on the health of any given project and you don’t realize the impact until or after execution phase of the project and when you do realize the impact, its very hard to trace back to the exact wish list; at the end its bad project management on your part and good critical assessment on stakeholder part.
In operations you do have the flexibility as far as triple constraints are concerned and it’s comparatively easy to evaluate the impact in early stages.
So it is better to say one “NO” than to face one hundred embarrassments.